John Allan Buehrens

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Buehrens, John Allan (21 June 1947— )

Buehrens he is son of a Slovak-American Roman Catholic mother and a father of Protestant background. Raised largely in the American Midwest, Buehrens was a high school exchange student in Milan, Italy, completing secondary school at a Jesuit liceo classico. He studied the history and literature of the Renaissance and Reformation at Harvard, earning his B.A. summa cum laude in 1968. He graduated from Harvard Divinity School with the M.Div. degree in theology, magna cum laude, in 1973.

Since June of 1972, he has been married to Gwen Langdoc Buehrens, a graduate of Yale Divinity School. She was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church three days after they were married, one of the pioneers among ordained women in her denomination. She has been a priest since 1985, serving parishes in Texas, New York, and Massachusetts, as an officer of the General Convention, as a clergy leader, and as a trustee of the international humanitarian arm of her church, Episcopal Relief and Development. They are the parents of two young adult daughters.

For twenty years Buehrens served as a Unitarian Universalist parish minister in Knoxville, Tennessee (1973-81), Dallas, Texas (1981-87), and New York City (1987-93), during which time he was an active advocate for the homeless and mentally ill, for civil liberties, for poor communities, for interfaith cooperation, and for issues of sexual justice.

Buehrens is co-author, with Forrest Church of A Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism (Beacon, 1989, 1996), translated into Spanish as La Fe Que Hemos Escogido. His own most recent book is Understanding the Bible: An Introduction for Skeptics, Seekers, and Religious Liberals (Beacon, 2002).

Cited as “scholar, organizer, but above all, pastor," Buehrens was awarded an honorary doctorate in theology in 1990 by the Starr King School for the Ministry and, in 1995, the degree of Doctor of Divinity by Meadville/Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago, and in 2000 another honorary doctorate in theology from the Federated Protestant Theological Faculty in Kolosvar, Romania.

From 1993 to 2001 he served as the sixth President of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. In that capacity he was the principal spokesperson for the denomination and was responsible to its Board of Trustees for executive leadership of its programs, including Beacon Press. He was the only non-gay religious leader invited to address the Millenium March for Equality in Washington, DC, in 2000.

Buehrens has served in the leadership of the National Parenting Association, the Foundation for Individual Responsibility and Social Trust (FIRST), the International Association for Religious Freedom, the Progressive Religious Partnership, the Association of Theological Schools in the US and Canada, the World Conference on Religion and Peace, and the Religious Institute for Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.

He has taught history and theology at Andover Newton Theological School and has been Visiting Professor of Ministry at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California, where he has also served on the Board of Trustees.

In 2002 he became Minister of the First Parish in Needham, Massachusetts, founded in 1711. He currently also serves as President of the Needham Clergy Association, as President of the Mass Bay Chapter of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, and as Senior Advisor to the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. He is co-chair for Freedom to Marry.


A Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism (with Forrest Church), 1989, 1996
Understanding the Bible: An Introduction for Skeptics, Seekers, and Religious Liberals, 2002
"If you can't or won't understand the Bible, others will surely interpret it for you," warns Buehrens. In the book he writes that St. Paul was ignorant about homosexuality, that "homosexuality can be something beyond choice, that some people may truly be called by God to love members of their own sex, should not be an excuse for unchristian attitudes toward such forms of love today." He also states that it is futile for religionists to appeal to "tradition," for "all traditions are themselves interpretations."


In a letter to Warren Allen Smith, he acknowledged having been included in his Who's Who in Hell.